October 8, 2019 Daily Gardener Merchandise, Johann Baptist Ziz, William Swainson, Hardy Croom, Elizabeth Agassiz, Growing Herbs by Thomas DeBaggio, Burying Hens and Chicks, and Fall Color with Kelly Norris

Last night, I met with my Social Media team, and we were having so much fun coming up with designs and quotes and all kinds of things for merchandise for the show.

We're putting together t-shirts, tote bags, and stickers. With any luck, we'll have Daily Gardener gear and merchandise ready to go live for you on November 1st. So keep that in mind.

If you're a fan of the show, you can add The Daily Gardener merchandise to your wishlist for the holidays.

Stay tuned for updates on that.






#OTD Today is the birthday of the German botanist, Johann Baptist Ziz, who was born on this day in 1779.

The genus Zizia, which has three species, was named for him. Zizia plants are one of my favorites; they bloom for a long time, and they are a great source of pollen and nectar. Zizia is in the carrot family with stems 1-3 feet tall. The flowers are a compound umbel with many small flower heads. Native Americans used the root of Zizia to treat pain. In the wild, Zizia is found in meadows, the edge of woods, and thickets. In the garden, it's an excellent plant for part shade, and it makes for a lovely ground cover plant.

Zizia aurea is known by the common name Golden Alexanders. Aurea from the Latin word for "golden-yellow." Golden Alexanders are easy to grow and a host plant for the black swallowtail butterfly. They also attract loads of other pollinating insects like the golden Alexanders mining bee—which was named for its special relationship with the Zizia. The early leaves of Zizia aurea have beaded magenta edges, which adds to their charm in the garden.

In private plant sales over the past decade, Zizia aurea sells like hotcakes. They make a beautiful cut flower.

Golden Alexander pairs beautifully with exuberant purple blooms like the False Blue Indigo or Salvia 'May Night.'





#OTD Today is the birthday of the English naturalist, William Swainson, who was born on this day in 1789.

Swainson subscribed to the quinarian system; a taxonomic theory that grouped animals and plants into groups of five or multiples of fives. He stubbornly adhered to the system even after Darwin's origin was gaining traction.

In 1840, Swainson immigrated to New Zealand with his second wife and all but one of his children. He faced numerous setbacks while there, including the fact that many of his belongings, including his books and proofs which were aboard a separate ship, were lost at sea. Once in New Zealand, he struggled financially, survived a fire, and an earthquake.

Before he died, Swainson sent a letter to his son Willie. He wrote:

"I am much pleased of your increasing fondness for gardening and shall always be happy to send you anything I can spare from this place. A garden as Bacon says ‘is the purest of human pleasures,’ and truly do I find it so, as in youth, so in age, and no other outdoor recreation is so delightful to me.”




#OTD Today is the birthday of the Florida botanist Hardy Bryan Croom who was born on this day in 1797.

Croom was trained as a lawyer, but since his inheritance from his father was substantial, he never practiced. As Croom matured, he began pursuing specialties like geology, mineralogy, and botany. When it came to botany, there was no botanist Croom admired more than John Torrey with whom he corresponded.

In 1834, Croom became an early landowner in Tallahassee. At the time, Florida was still a territory. Hardy Croom loved the Tallahassee region, and he set about building a home there for his family.

In fact, Croom bought not one, but two plantations with his fortune. As he traveled between them, he would study the exciting natural flora and fauna.

One day, as he traveled between the two plantations, Croom was waiting for a ferry along the east bank of the Apalachicola River when he discovered a new tree species and a new little plant growing in the shade canopy. Croom named the tree Torreya taxifolia in honor of his mentor, John Torrey.

One of the oldest tree species on earth, the Florida Torreya is also known by various common names, including gopher-wood, yew-leafed Torreya, Torreya wood, savin, stinking savin, and stinking cedar (for the strong odor of the sap and from the leaves and seed when crushed). The local legend is that the Torreya was the Biblical "gopher wood" used by Noah to build the ark.

To this day, the rare tree grows naturally only in this part of the world, along the roughly 30 mile stretch of the Apalachicola river between Chattahoochee and Bristol. There is another species of the same genus growing in California, and it is known as the California nutmeg.

In a newspaper account from 1947, the Torreya taxifolia that Croom had planted by the Florida capital building, over a century earlier, was still standing. Disease and aggressive harvesting nearly annihilated the tree species during the 20th century. Since the wood of the Torreya does not rot, it was used especially for fenceposts and shingles, as well as Christmas trees. Only 200 survive today.

At the same time Croom discovered the Torreya taxifolia, he discovered another little new plant species. This one would bear his name: the Croomia panciflora. Asa Gray, who was Torrey's assistant at the time, recalled Croom's modesty, saying:

"I was a pupil and assisistant of ....Torrey when Mr. Croom brought... him specimens...I well remember Mr. Croom's remark.... that if his name was deemed worthy of botanical honors, it was gratifying to him, and [that] it should be born by the unpretending herb which delighted to shelter itself under the noble Torreya [tree]."


So, in botany, as in life, Croom grew happily in the shadow of Torrey.

In 1837, one day after Croom's 40th birthday, Croom, his wife, and their three children - two girls age 15 and 7, and a son age 10 - all died when the steamboat Home was caught in a hurricane off of Cape Hatteras. Croom's body was never recovered. Tomorrow will be the 182nd anniversary of the disaster, which claimed the lives of 90 souls of the 130 aboard the steamboat, which had only two life vests. After the Home Steamboat tragedy, Congress required seagoing ships to carry a life preserver for each passenger.

The loss of the entire Croom family created a legal dispute between the remaining family members. The matter remained unsettled for nearly two decades, and it hinged on attempting to discern which family member died last; based on eye witness testimony, incredibly the court finally agreed Croom's 10-year-old son was the last to die in the waves of the ocean and the bulk of Croom's estate was passed to his mother-in-law and not to his brother Bryan. Floridians naturally supported the Croom side of the dispute, and newspaper reports often said the decision could just as well have been made with an Ouija board.





#OTD On this day in 1877, Elizabeth Agassiz, the wife of the naturalist and famous Harvard Professor Louis Agassiz, met with Longfellow to get his opinion on the first couple of chapters of the Life of Agassiz; her biography of her husband.

In Louise Hall Tharp's book about the family, a memory was shared that described Elizabeth in the garden:

“[She was wearing] a fresh white morning gown, basket and shears in hand, going leisurely, with her rather stately air, from border to border and then coming back into the porch and arranging flowers in different vases. Lemon verbena and heliotrope she always had in abundance, so that the rooms were fragrant with them. ...She had a glass tank on the porch in which she kept pond lilies.”


Around the same time, her neighbor, Arthur Gilman, stopped over to visit. He couldn't find a suitable high school for his daughter, Grace. It was the beginning of Radcliffe College, and Elizabeth would be Radcliffe's first president.




Unearthed Words

October's poplars are flaming torches lighting the way to winter.
- Nova Bair


Summer is .... better, but the best is autumn,
It is mature, reasonable and serious,
it glows moderately and not frivolously...

- Valentin Iremonger, Finnish writer



Today's book recommendation: Growing Herbs from Seed, Cutting & Root by Thomas DeBaggio

This book came out in 1995. DeBaggio raised herbs for a devoted clientele at his nursery in Loudon County, Virginia. He's known especially for his superb varieties of Lavender and Rosemary.

This book is one of my favorites, offering an abundance of step-by-step photographs to ensure success for even brown-thumbed gardeners.

And, I love what Jim Wilson wrote in the forward of this book:

"Learning about herbs is both simple and complicated. The aroma of one sometimes mimics that of another and several herbs may share a common name."




Today's Garden Chore

If you have your hens and chicks in pots, today's as good a day as any to bury them. I love to put hens and chicks in herb pots, the pots that have all the little openings on the sides.

But if you leave them out over the winter, they will not survive above ground. However, if you put them in a trench and cover them with leaves and mulch, you can dig them up in the spring and discover even more chicks developed overwintering in the trench.





Something Sweet
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart

On this day in 2009, the botanist Kelly Norris wrote a post about the color of Fall and his favorite plants in a post called Candy Shop. Here's what he wrote:

"Today I’d like to share with you some of my favorite “candies” from around the Iowa State University campus...

Dream no longer of purple smoketree, the purple blight on the landscape. Instead think a little bigger, heftier, and prettier. American smoketree boasts conspicuous, smoky flower clusters in mid-summer, puffing out like billowy clouds of not-so-pink cotton candy.

My next find [is] a colony of dwarf fothergilla (Fothergilla gardenii). These happy companions to daphnes and rhododendrons look sumptuous this time of year with... greens, yellows, oranges, and reds. Perfect for borders or that small bed where you’d like a shrub but don’t have [much] room.

[A] most elegant specimen [is] Chionanthus virginicus, our native fringetree... Dangling, silvery-white blossoms adorn all limbs of the plant in late spring... The best part of the show comes along in fall when lime green foliage ages to baked gold, providing a glowing backdrop for chocolate chip-like drupes that dangle where flowers once did.

Heptacodium miconioides (seven sons flower) [was] dripped in bright pink this morning, thanks to the colorful sepals left behind from the white flowers that finished several weeks ago. [They are]... sweet to look at!

My last plant of note is a red twig dogwood (Cornus sericea). I know…what could be so fascinating about the most overplanted dogwood in American history? Just take a look at this amazing specimen’s fall color... Even the most ordinary plants can earn their keep when you take a moment to look past what makes them ordinary...





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and remember:
"For a happy, healthy life, garden every day."

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